Will there be a Portillo moment on election night with any of the party leaders? Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are two most likely leaders to lose and Lord Ashcroft has polled Sheffield Hallam and South Thanet to find out how safe the Lib Dem and Ukip leaders are. As the chart above shows, Farage and Clegg are still in very tight races. In Sheffield Hallam, Labour is now just one point ahead of the Lib Dems — compared to a three point lead in November last year.
In South Thanet, Ashcroft puts Ukip two points behind the Tories, compared to a one point lead in November 2014. Although the two parties are battling for first place, Labour is drifting into third. As I’ve discussed before, whether Farage wins this seat depends on what happens to the ‘anyone but Farage vote’. If these voters rally behind the Tories, as Ashcroft’s poll suggests is happening, he faces more of a battle to win.
These seats are both highly contested. According to Ashcroft’s research, 89 per cent of voters in South Thanet have heard from Ukip, compared to 78 per cent for the Conservatives and 71 for Labour. It’s a similar story in Sheffield Hallam, where 92 per cent of voters have heard from the Liberal Democrats and 81 per cent from Labour.
But there is one caveat with these polls: Ashcroft does not name the candidates when polling. When Ashcroft first started these marginal polls, many of the candidates’ names weren’t selected so prompting them was impossible. But Farage and Clegg are prominent local and national figures so they will receive a boost from their popularity. Given that tight margins, it’s fair to assume Farage and Clegg will be safe.
As with the recent ComRes polls, Ukip is hitting back on Ashcroft’s methodology. A Ukip spokesman said this afternoon:
‘What this poll shows is that before reweighting back to 2010, Nigel is ahead, even without being named as the candidate, which we know adds several points to the end result. It’s no surprise that the methodology of this poll also predicts that Nick Clegg would lose his seat, as it doesn’t name him as the candidate. Overall, we think the top line has been achieved via slightly suspect methods, but on the raw numbers, without being named, we’re winning.’
Ashcroft has also released a poll form South Swindon, a tight Tory/Labour marginal. In March, he reported that it was a tie, now there is a one point Conservative lead. Maybe there is a shy Tory vote beginning to emerge after all.